Eighteenth century farmers understood basket-making and it formed part of his occupation in winter evenings. Due to the availability of purchased materials and baskets this practice was of less importance by the 1840s although it was still recommended every gardener, forester, and woodman understand how to make a basket. Eighteenth century farmers often maintained their own osier/willow grounds for materials.
Baskets for gathering salad herbs for family use are flat, shallow, chip, or osier. Those without any handle are the most convenient, and from about ten or twelve to eighteen inches in diameter and two or three deep. For gathering peas, beans, cabbage, carrots, and other crops required in considerable quantity, there should be strong, deep, osier baskets of different dimensions, somewhat of the form of a water-pail, and from about a peck to a bushel size, with two strong side handles at top.
Baskets of osier, wicker-work, and chip baskets, different sorts are necessary in considerable kitchen gardens for gathering the produce for the kitchen or market, &c. some small, others middling and large; some flat and shallow, larger and smaller kinds, for sallad [sic] baskets, several sorts of small herbs and fruits; others, more or less hollowed concave, shallower and deeper, smaller and larger, for different occasions in gathering any common small crops for family service, in roots, herbs, sallads, pulse, and other herbaceous esculents, and different sorts of fruits; and if some of these baskets have bowed cross handles, will be more convenient; also larger round, deep half bushel and bushel baskets, for gathering larger supplies of more bulky kinds, as cabbages, cauliflowers, and other cabbage kinds; as also peas, beans, and many of the large root esculents; or for serving a family kitchen, a large basket may contain several sorts of the common esculents to carry in at once; but all principal fruits, for immediate supply of the table, should be gathered in small or moderate sized shallow neat baskets, that they may not be bruised by many lying upon one another, and that the fruit may appear to the best advantage, or the choicer eating fruits gathered each sort in separate small baskets, and placed in a larger flat one, to carry into the house.
For gathering larger quantities of standard tree fruits, and others for baking, boiling, &c. any common basket is eligible; or for gathering the keeping fruits of apples, pears, &c. to house for winter, should have either a common deepish wicker basket, with two side handles, hung by a belt, &c. round the person, in the work of hand-gathering. These are emptied into larger baskets or hampers to carry to the fruitery.
In the market grounds they have many sorts for gathering, and the gathered ware is packed in baskets of different sorts and sizes for market, denominated sieves, junks, maunds, boats, flats, &c. Mushrooms, raspberries, mulberries, cherries, strawberries &c. are carried to market in small upright narrow chip baskets, called pottles, and placed many together in a large flat boat basket.
Boats are large flat baskets two or three feet broad, and eight or ten inches deep, with two handles at the rim, used chiefly to put up such goods that cannot bear hard, or close packing.
Maunds are upright narrow baskets about two feet deep, wider at top than bottom, having two handles and usually open round the middle of the sides.
Sieves are flat-bottomed, upright-sided baskets, about a foot deep, without handles, and from about a peck to a bushel measure in dimensions, being equally as wide at bottom as the top.
Pottle baskets are most convenient for sending quantities of berries to market, or to any distance; these are very small, upright, chip baskets holding about a quart, being ten or twelve inches deep, very narrow at bottom, and not more than four or five inches wide at top, where there is a cross handle.
A large basket with two deep handles to receive a long pole, used to carry between two men or placed upon an open wheel-barrow is useful in carrying off raked-up heaps of fallen leaves or mowed grass.
COMMON BASKET MAKING MATERIALS:
Osier: a small aquatic tree. Osier and similar trees yield white wood, poles, binders, &c. for the gardener’s use. The osier is of great use to the basket-maker, gardener, fisherman, &c. It can be used as-is, or peeled, for a better appearance and it can be used whole or split (divided into two or four pieces).
Willow: is also called salix or sallie. It grows very quickly and is planted on the osier grounds. Its branches are very flexible making it good for the basket-makers.
Wicker: twigs of the osier shrub.
Rushes: a plant growing on the banks of bodies of water. Anything made of rushes is said to be rushy.
Chip: strips of tree bark. No real definition was found for this word, however, in a Gaelic/English dictionary published in 1780 is found: “slis: a chip, a lath, thin board” and a chip referred to a carpenter.
Main Sources: Mawe, Thomas, and Abercrombie, John. “The Universal Gardener and Botanist”. 1778.
Worlidge, John. “The Compleat System of Husbandry and Gardening”. 1716.